2012-03-12

Dental Care in Children

Cavities in children two to five have increased 30 per cent in the last five years, say dentists who are finding more preschoolers need dental surgery. @ cbc.ca

It is difficult to get most children to take good care of their mouths, but until they are much older, it is the parents' responsibility to ensure that teeth are brushed after every meal, before bed, in the morning. 

While parents do this it is a good idea to be teaching / using behavioral techniques. Being gentle is ultra-important so the kids do not develop aversion; you can identify this when a child lies (e.g., yes, I have brushed my teeth), or when a child will come up with anything to escape, avoid, or delay brushing. And rewarding is essential too. With praise/encouragement or anything valuable, but food of course; that would defeat the purpose (but if you are in a really bad place, where so many parents of kids with autism find themselves, by all means do what you have to do in the initial phases of desensitization if you do not have a single strong reinforcer).
Some kids respond well to special toothbrushes or toothpaste, such as special flavors, colors, characters, vibrating. 
When the time comes, get the child to collaborate with the brushing. In difficult cases, again like the kids with autism we usually see who are already very resistant, start slowly with accepting the sight of the toothbrush, touching on the lips, then moving a bit, then inside the mouth one stroke, two, and so on. Slowly. Measure success by the child's cooperation and if things do not progress fast, look for professional help!

This Canadian website has a lot of info cards: http://www.health.alberta.ca/documents/Healthy-teeth-guide.pdf

For example:


Of course there is more than brushing. For the teeth health and also overall health, limit drastically the sugar intake (no soda / pop, mix natural fruit juice with water; educate the taste - fade sugar out if the child already has a strong preference for sweet or don't introduce at home.

For more on children with autism and dental care, Autism Speaks has a guide for families and one for professionals.


And of course behavior analysis has shown us tricks. Below are some links to scientific articles and here is a great Clinical Corner by the Association for Science in Autism Treatment!








And since this is the ABA Blog, committed to science, here are resources for evidence-based dentistry!